Boeing S.C. starts Dreamliner's engines; Air India pilot strike escalates
Boeing South Carolina fired up the engines on its first 787 Dreamliner this week, marking another milestone at the North Charleston plane-making plant.
The pair of General Electric GEnx engines were installed inside the centerpiece final assembly building on Boeing's campus in January. But they couldn't be fueled and started until Monday as the plane sat in its flightline stall near the Aviation Avenue delivery center.
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The engine run is part of a battery of tests the Boeing delivery center team has been performing in the days following the plane's rollout event on April 27, spokeswoman Candy Eslinger said Wednesday.
“Everything's progressing well with the airplane,” Eslinger said.
Boeing executives have said the plane will fly for the first time this month, but no date has been yet been released.
Delivery to Air India, which will be accompanied by another major celebration, is expected early this summer.
Everything has not been progressing as well for Air India, the South Asian nation's flag carrier slated to take the first four 787 Dreamliners assembled in North Charleston.
The airline, which merged with Indian Airlines in 2007, has been hemorrhaging money for years while contending with internal strife and public criticism.
Now, according to several published reports from India, more than 200 of its pilots are on strike, leading to flight cancellations and raising questions about the future of the carrier.
According to the reports, the legacy Air India pilots are protesting their wages, working conditions and a plan to train their colleagues from the former Indian Airlines in how to fly the coveted Dreamliners.
Air India ordered 27 of the high-tech long-haul jets in 2005. After more than three years of Boeing production delays and Air India's more recent scramble for money to complete the purchases, the first batch of plane handovers is scheduled to go forward this year.
At the same time, the long-simmering discontent between the pilots' two unions and management has become a major disruption.
Pilots began calling in sick Saturday the no-shows eclipsed 100 by Tuesday and kept rising Wednesday.
In response, Air India so far has fired 36 pilots; derecognized their union, the Indian Pilots Guild; sealed their offices and sent doctors to the pilots' homes, according to the reports.
The Delhi High Court has declared the strike illegal, but the IPG has promised that the work stoppage will continue through the weekend, according to press reports. More than a dozen international flights have been canceled.